The list of tragedies resulting from the death of George Floyd last year is extensive. The most obvious is, of course, the demise of Floyd himself; a 46-year old man who’d previously shown promise as a musician and athlete, but who became plagued by demons and ultimately died after a dreadful series of events. There are others, however… many, many others. There were 25 people who died in the mostly-peaceful Black Lives Matter/Antifa riots that followed Floyd’s passing. There was as much as $2 billion worth of property damage caused by those riots, as hundreds of small business owners saw their lives’ work destroyed in the flash of a Molotov cocktail. But based on yesterday’s verdict convicting Derek Chauvin on all charges and the recent events leading up to that verdict, the most significant casualty of the George Floyd affair, and one which may have the most long-lasting impact on our society, is the decision by many on the left, including elected public officials at the highest levels of government, to blatantly disregard and attack due process.
One of the most fundamental rights we have as Americans is the right to due process. Prior to the American Revolution, and before the ratification of the Constitution, one’s access to due process was hit-or-miss. Monarchies such as those of King George III of Great Britain had various mechanisms in place to apply justice, and in some cases those mechanisms provided legal protections to suspected criminals. But the utilization of those instruments often depended on the financial or social status of the accused. As a result, our founding fathers deemed due process to be such a critical component of our new republic, it was immortalized in the Bill of Rights.
Along with our rights to bear arms and freedom of speech, the Bill of Rights spelled out unequivocally our right to due process in the Fifth Amendment, which states, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime… without due process of law.” The right to due process is central to our identity as a free people, and can be traced to the Magna Carta, which predates the Constitution by 574 years. Yet Democrats and their media have made it abundantly clear throughout the Derek Chauvin trial, and even before, that due process is optional and shouldn’t apply to those whom they’ve already judged as guilty.
It wasn’t that long ago when the left openly embraced due process, at least for those they determined to be worthy. The 1995 murder trial of O.J. Simpson wasn’t racially tinged; at least not until Simpson lawyer Johnny Cochrane famously played “the race card” and turned it into a referendum on American race relations. The evidence against Simpson was overwhelming, and Simpson was clearly guilty in the court of public opinion. But like all Americans, they told us, Simpson was entitled to due process, a fair trial. And they were right. We have since learned that Simpson’s verdict of not guilty was “payback” for previous perceived injustices, according to jurors from that trial. Nonetheless, Simpson received his due process and the values of the Constitution were upheld; if not the ideals of criminal justice.
Twenty-five years after the Simpson trial, however, due process is considered an unnecessary burden for the left. We saw this approach with their treatment of Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson, who was acquitted by a grand jury of any wrongdoing in the 2014 death of Michael Brown, a decision that was later investigated and validated by President Barack Obama’s Justice Department. We saw this approach with the reaction to the Louisville D.A.’s decision regarding the death of Breonna Taylor. Wilson and the Louisville cops shouldn’t have received due process, the left argued, because they knew they were guilty. They just knew. But never have we seen a more blatant dismissal of the need for due process than we have seen with the Chauvin trial.
We’ve seen evidence of the phenomenon throughout the media for months, with various pundits proclaiming we don’t even need to have a trial. Chauvin is guilty, case closed. Washington Post columnist Christine Emba proudly explained that she wasn’t even watching the trial, because she already knew the truth and is sure she’ll be seeing similar deaths of black Americans in the future. Fox Nation commentator Nancy Grace questioned why Chauvin wasn’t charged with first-degree murder, suggesting that Chauvin not only murdered Floyd, but that his actions were premeditated and speculated that Chauvin was “hiding an erection” during the incident. But Grace and Emba are just talking heads; media members with influence but no official power. When government officials take not only a similar tact but an escalated one, the disdain for due process is taken to a whole new level.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is not just any member of the House of Representatives. She’s been a member of the House for over thirty years, is somehow highly-regarded by fellow House Democrats, and is in fact Chairwoman of the influential House Financial Services Committee, one of the most coveted positions in Congress. When Maxine Waters weighs in on matters, it’s not the same as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) jumping into the fray and talking out of her ass. Maxine Waters has clout at a level AOC can only dream about. Waters is one of the highest-ranking members of our federal government, and when she travels to Minnesota to offer opinions and guidance to would-be rioters, her words must be taken seriously.
We’ve all known for months now the stakes of the Derek Chauvin trial. Everyone was aware, though some were hesitant to say it out loud. If Chauvin had been found not guilty, a decision that certainly would’ve been reasonable based on the prosecution’s shoddy evidence and sloppy performance, we’d have seen riots across the country. If the verdict had been guilty for the charge of manslaughter but not murder, we still would have seen riots, though perhaps somewhat less passionate and extensive. And if we had seen a mistrial/hung jury – a realistic scenario considering the trial’s dynamics – we would still have seen riots along with Cheshire Cat grins on Democrats, as they would have enjoyed the best possible outcome for their narrative. A mistrial/hung jury would have allowed Democrats to persist in trashing our country’s imaginary systemic racism, it would have continued opportunities for them to exploit Floyd’s death and keep the story on America’s front-burner, and it would have kept alive the possibility of their version of justice being eventually rendered.
These facts regarding the trial’s outcome were implicit, and undoubtedly fully understood by the jurors. There was already an unspoken pressure on jurors to convict Chauvin before the trial even began. “Convict Chauvin or there will be riots everywhere” was the secret message that was conveyed, not unlike the Mafia. “That’s a nice country you have there, America… it’d be a shame if something happened to it.” Therefore, when we saw Maxine Waters go to Minnesota on Saturday, urging her minions to “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” in the event the verdict wasn’t to their liking, we were witnessing one of the most powerful members of Congress openly attempting to eliminate Chauvin’s right to due process. A woman who took an oath to uphold our Constitution had unabashedly called for ignoring it, while simultaneously being cheered on by a complicit media.
If jurors feel threatened to convict a defendant lest their country go up in flames, due process is destroyed. If potential witnesses will not testify due to the prosecution’s refusal to grant immunity (for fear of the truth coming out), due process is jeopardized. And when a defense witness is allowed to be intimidated with a severed pig’s head being delivered to his former home, due process is endangered.
We are all entitled to our opinions on Derek Chauvin’s guilt or innocence. The trial had been widely covered and broadly watched. Considering the intricacies of the case, reasonable people could have opinions either for or against conviction. But unless we were one of the twelve individuals who made up that jury, our opinions didn’t matter, and neither did the opinions of people like Maxine Waters.
One wouldn’t know it by listening to Democrats or their media, but we live in a great country; the greatest that has ever existed. We have a standard of living that is the envy of the world. We have a culture that embraces diversity, and we are a beacon of hope for billions of people worldwide. Despite certain hideous aspects of our past, we have twice elected a black man to the highest office in the land, and we currently have a black woman in the second-highest office. If we are to preserve this country and all that it means, due process must be part of that preservation. Without it, we are no better than a second-rate dictatorship.
P.F. Whalen is a conservative blogger at TheBlueStateConservative.com. His work has appeared in multiple publications, including Human Events, the Western Journal, and American Thinker. Follow him on Parler @PFWhalen.
Photo by Jessie Lynn at Flickr.